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Humphrey Searle: Orchestral Works



‘His music can be, and often is, dramatic and powerful, but it can also be tender and warm and it can also show those elements of comedy and parody which he delighted in himself. [It] is, I admit, often difficult and tough. I happen to like that. Like Charles Ives, I like to have my ears stretched. It’s music which goes somewhere. It … progresses from point to point in a direct and logical way.’

This tribute to Humphrey Searle (1915-1983) captures the essence of his creative output. It was given by his friend and fellow composer Peter Racine Fricker, who declared he had been ‘fortunate to have known a person with such wit, warmth and wisdom’.

Humphrey Searle: Orchestral Works


Of great interest are the essay-length liner notes by Paul Conway. These give an overview of Searle’s music as well as exceptionally detailed programme notes for each work. This includes references to important contemporary articles and reviews.

As a listener, I never lie awake at night worrying too much about the quality of a recording, especially when it is historical. Some people will be traumatised that all the music on this disc is in ‘glorious mono’ sound. I feel that Lyrita have given us the best possible aural experience bearing in mind that, for example, the Symphony No.5 was recorded 50 years ago! I would rather have the works in my collection as they are here, than wait another lifetime (which I do not have) for pristine stereo digital sound.

Humphrey Searle is a composer who acts as an antidote to the anodyne ‘sub Einaudi’ music that seems so popular these days. His music owes much to the European romantic tradition. Yes, he uses serialism, but rarely as an end to itself. There are often lyrical themes and memorable fragments. Searle has written that “I am trying to write music first and use the twelve-note method afterwards”. Paul Conway conclude his liner notes by insisting that “serialism need not preclude emotional engagement at the basic human level, nor does it oblige a composer to neglect orchestral balance”. Lyrita’s new CD of music by Humphrey Searle proves conclusively that this is the case. John France MusicWeb-International